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08 FUTURE OF RETAIL New wave of digital-savvy retail chiefs Retail bosses must be tech savvy, willing to delegate to digital experts and empower others in their organisation, while keeping a tight hold on strategy I ntroduction of disruptive tech- nologies has forever blurred the lines connecting the retail sec- tor's physical and digital spaces. Eff ectively implementing artifi cial intelligence (AI) tools and big data solutions to create a seamless cus- tomer journey is a major considera- tion for any forward-thinking enter- prise. For retailers it can mean the diff erence between leading the mar- ket and falling behind. Retail chief executives are best placed to recognise not only the potential of these new innovations, but also the need to possess the dig- ital skills required to keep up to date with a constantly changing techno- logical ecosystem. The same talents senior retail executives perfected in their journey to the C-suite around retail store operations will not be enough to drive forward the types of digital transformations needed to remain competitive in an increas- ingly complex global marketplace. It's understandable that retail bosses might be hesitant to embrace technologies and data analytics tools that they have little knowledge of, but as the skills required to lead a retail business expand, delegation will become even more important. The ability of chief executives to empower staff , all the way from in-store assis- tants to senior executives, to embrace data-based skills will make a major diff erence to long-term prospects. "While CEOs don't necessarily need to be digital gurus, they do need to be capable of grasping the overall transformational journey of their business and the role that dig- ital plays in this," says Dr Jonathan Reynolds, academic director of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management at Oxford University's Saïd Business School. "Digital transformation is a team sport and retail CEOs need to build a trusted cadre of commercially savvy, as well as digitally experienced, sen- ior talent to help them make the right judgments." According to a study by executive search fi rm DHR International, just one in twenty executive directors at UK-listed bricks-and-mortar retail fi rms come from an online back- ground. Traditional retailers are now working overtime to meet the challenges brought by e-commerce giants such as ASOS and Very, with constantly evolving customer needs calling for executives to both learn new skills and employ more digi- tally focused staff . "Data holds the key to under- standing customer behaviour and the journey to purchases whether that's done on mobile, PC, tablet or in-store. With such a vast amount of data produced, it's no longer the sole responsibility for the business intelligence or IT teams to ma ke sense of this," explains Thibaut Ceyrolle, vice president, Europe, Middle East and A frica, at data warehouse-as-a-ser vice pro- vider Snowf la ke. Customers expect to receive a highly personalised and frictionless shopping experience, with the emer- gence of internet of things solutions, big data, AI and in-store beacons making this a reality. From using data analytics to pull out action- able insights from customer pur- chasing history to using beacons to push relevant notifi cations to con- sumers in-store, the eff ective use of innovative technologies underlies the future of retail. However, the right balance needs to be struck between solely focusing on data and fostering creativity and calculated risk-taking. Dr Reynolds believes that retail executives need to be more forgiving of experimen- tation and failure. "Failure is not always bad, but superfi cial back- ing for fashionable ideas driven by anecdotal evidence and glitzy, siloed innovation labs alone won't cut it," he says. As competition from e-commence rivals intensifi es, retail leadership will require softer skills, especially LEADERSHIP acilo/Getty Images FINBARR TOESLAND Strengths in leveraging customer data How UK retailers are using data from their customers to deliver insight JDA/PwC 2017 Planning/developing customer offers Insight into customer preferences/ shopping behaviours Personalising customer experience (digital) Personalising customer experience (physical) Having a single customer view across channels/touchpoints Capturing unstructured data (social, reviews) 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Signifi cantly Moderately Minimally Not at all Don't know

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